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Italy’s 2011 Referendum Results – A Massive Defeat For Berlusconi

The Future for Berlusconi?

Despite various attempts by the Berlusconi government to stifle referendums on key issues like the privatisation of water, re-introducing nuclear power to Italy and the legitimacy of offering protection from prosecution to Silvio Berlusconi himself, the voting went ahead.

Right up to the last minute Berlusconi and his gang tried to have the part of the referendum on the nuclear issue declared invalid. Not only. Italy’s press and TV remained all but silent in the run up to the referendum – only social media systems like Facebook and Twitter were helping to spread the word, albeit unofficially.

After the Fukushima nuclear disaster in Japan, the question of re-introducing nuclear power generation into Italy became a hot and sticky issue, so first the Berlusconi government attempted put a hold on its planned re-introduction, then it tried hard to use the ‘hold’ as a way to declare the referendum illegitimate, but this attempt failed.

The fact that the government attempted to halt the referendum indicates that it suspected what the outcome would be. Moreover, the Berlusconi government had reintroduced nuclear power without consulting Italians – who had already voted against the use nuclear power in Italy in a referendum in 1987.

The 50% plus one quorum required to render the 2011 referendum valid was easily reached, despite fears it would not be.

Yesterday was a great day for democracy in Italy! As with recent local elections, social media helped spread the word and even though time was limited owing to delaying tactics and zero mentions on public TV in Italy, comments on Facebook, blogs and Twitter were transformed into a reasonable turnout and plenty of votes, as the results below demonstrate, against government sponsored issues.

Definitive Results of June Referendum in Italy

Around 95% of the 55.5% of Italians who voted said ‘yes’ – which meant ‘no’ to the policy issues tackled by Italy’s referendum.

All the votes have been counted – 01:42, June 14th 2011:

  • Privatisation of Water: 95.50% – Yes – which means ‘no’ to privatisation of water in Italy.
  • Profits on Water: 95.95% – Yes – which means ‘no’ to making unlimited profits on water services in Italy.
  • Nuclear Energy: 94.28% – Yes – which means ‘no’ to nuclear energy generation in Italy.
  • Protecting Berlusconi from Prosecution – Repeal the Legitimate Impediment Law: 94.79% – Yes – which means bye bye protection from prosecution for Silvio Berlusconi & Co.

The Fallout

In the face of the massive vote against his government’s policies, calls for Berlusconi to go are mounting.

Berlusconi faithful are claiming that only left-wing voters actually voted. This seems to indicate that over 50% of Italy’s population lean to the left. Probably closer to the truth is that disillusion with the current poor state of Italy pushed Italians to the left – although the result was not so much a swing to the left as a protest against the Berlusconi government, even if Berlusconi himself does not want to admit it.

Others within Berlusconi’s party will be aware that their leader is no longer a valuable brand and moves will be afoot to do something about this – even if there seems to be nobody on Italy’s right who would would make a suitable, and competent, leader, with the possible exception of Gianfranco Fini who jumped off the Berlusconi ship a while ago.

The ever present Italian family may well have influenced the vote too.

A Family Affair

Youth unemployment in Italy borders on 30%, but a lot of those with work do not have jobs with a future. Many of Italy’s talented young are escaping to other more career-friendly countries. Families, in a country in which family plays an important role, are being broken up.

For each unhappy son and daughter, there are unhappy parents, unhappy grandparents  – on both sides, plus disconsolate uncles and aunts. One unhappy child may well equate to as many as six or more no-votes against an unpopular government.  Berlusconi has either ignored or chosen to ignore internal data on how Italians feel. The huge defeat yesterday (I wrote this update after midnight) and in recent local elections indicate that Berlusconi is totally out of touch with Italy. He has been unable to keep Italy’s families happy which is a fatal mistake to make in this country.

A Concession

Berlusconi conceded that as Italy has said ‘no’ to nuclear power, future generation of energy in Italy will be based on renewable sources. This is potentially good news for Italy.

What the Results Mean for Berlusconi and For Italy

The Future for Berlusconi?
The Future for Berlusconi?
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The results on the nuclear energy and legitimate impediment issues are the most damaging for Berlusconi.

Some would argue that the vote was a protest against Berlusconi’s reluctance to step down, and this would not be an inaccurate observation. There is still the question of an alternative to Berlusconi, and to be honest, at the moment there is not one. Only the left-winger Nichi Vendola gives the impression that he is something new – however many would argue that Vendola is more or less as old school as the rest of Italy’s left, the core of which remains the same. This is not good for Italy which needs new blood and innovative politics to help it recover from Berlusconi’s inaction.

Recovery will take years – but might never occur if the old-guard centre-left gets back into power – it was their lack of ability which propelled Silvio Berlusconi into power in the first place. But Italy’s politicians are selfish beasts – many of them tend to put their interests far ahead of the interests of their country. This is something which has been holding Italy back for decades and is a factor which may well continue to cause huge problems for Italy in the years to come.

I’m not a huge fan of Italy’s right, nor am I a great fan of Italy’s left. Which way now? A very good question. Italy has given itself a glimmer of hope – but whether that hope can be transformed into reality remains to be seen.

Meanwhile, Umberto Bossi, leader of the Northern League party and a Berlusconi government coalition partner, is said to be discussing ways of ending his party’s alliance with Berlusconi. If this happens, Italy will be facing general elections very soon.

If Berlusconi’s government wins any confidence votes from now on, it’ll only be a result of his party having ‘bought’ support.

Quorum Reached

Polling station doors around Italy closed today at 3pm after having been open much of yesterday too. However, there was a great fear that the quorum required, 50% plus one vote, would not have been achieved.

Some friends of ours even got their elderly, infirm mother out to vote, and I know others did the same.  This referendum was important to Italians.

Perhaps the article in The Economist about Berlusconi entitled “The Man Who Screwed an Entire Country”, which made the front pages of most of Italy’s newspapers, had some effect too. As you may have guessed from the title, it was not complimentary towards Berlusconi.

The winds of change seem to be in the air in Italy and recent local election results which slammed Berlusconi sponsored candidates demonstrated that Italians are tiring of their prime minister, the scandal-racked Silvio Berlusconi (who cracked yet another bunga bunga joke in public today).  In fact, Berlusconi himself stated that he was not going to vote thus sending the message to his supporters, who seem to be dwindling in number daily, not to vote either.  Key ally of Berlusconi Umberto Bossi also told people to avoid the polling stations.

The advice of both Bossi and Berlusconi not to vote was very odd considering it came from democratically elected leaders.  Thankfully though, enough Italians ignored the undemocratic advice and went out and voted. Good for them!

Berlusconi, who passed the weekend with his family and at his villa in Sardinia, has been trying to maintain that the results of the referendum do not reflect what Italians think of his time in government. I would beg to disagree.

The final results of the referendum are now public. Berlusconi, and Bossi, should do the decent thing and resign.

Italy needs real leaders, really badly.

Photo credit

Image of Berlusconi used by kind permission of @Mario C

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